Las Vegas Sands' (NYSE:LVS) stock is down by nearly 32% from its high of the year, mostly because of weak gaming activity in Macau. The Chinese government is increasing controls and regulations to fight corruption and illegal money laundering via Macau casinos, and this is hurting demand for operators in the region.
However, the recent decline could present long-term investors with a buying opportunity in Las Vegas Sands. Let's look at five charts illustrating the bullish case for this stock at its current price.
The house always wins
It's hard to know when gaming demand in Macau will return to its normal growth trajectory. However, Las Vegas Sands operates a massively profitable business with an adjusted EBITDA margin of more than 35% of revenue, so the company generates more than enough cash flow to endure difficult times.
Las Vegas Sands has delivered rock-solid financial performance over the years, and the 2014 numbers are not that bad when considering the circumstances. The company's fundamentals are as sound as ever, so once external conditions improve, Las Vegas Sands should continue producing rapidly growing sales and earnings for investors.
Exciting growth potential
Las Vegas Sands is the market leader in Macau, and it has ambitious growth plans in the years ahead. The company recently received authorization to finish construction of The Parisian Macau, which is scheduled for inauguration in late 2015 and will provide 3,000 additional rooms to the company's presence in the region.
Las Vegas Sands plans to have more than 12,600 rooms in Macau by 2017, representing a dominant 43% market share among gaming operators.
In addition, the company is leveraging its experience and reputation as a successful operator in Asia to explore opportunities in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. Considering what it has achieved in China, international expansion could offer enormous potential for growth over the coming years.
Mass market, massive profitability
Las Vegas Sands makes more than 80% of its operating profit from the mass gaming market, both in Macau and in Singapore. This is a particularly profitable segment with gargantuan room to benefit from the rise of the Chinese middle class in the years ahead.
With the Chinese government particularly focused on increasing controls in the VIP segment of the gaming market, the impact of the new restrictions on the mass market should be relatively smaller.
Show me the money!
Las Vegas Sands is actively distributing capital to investors via both dividends and stock buybacks. The company announced a 30% dividend increase for 2015, on the back of a 42.9% payout hike for 2014. During the third quarter, Las Vegas Sands completed a $2 billion stock buyback program that started in June 2013, and management has received board authorization for an additional $2 billion in repurchases.
Cash distributions are not only an important return driver for investors, they also say much about the health of a business and management's confidence in the future of the company.
Las Vegas Sands trades at a forward P/E ratio of 15, a significant discount versus a forward P/E ratio of nearly 18 for the average company in the S&P 500. Considering the company's track record and potential for growth, a discounted valuation looks like an attractive entry point.
Also, dividends should provide some downside protection. At current prices, Las Vegas Sands' dividend yields 4.4%; this is versus a 2.3% average dividend yield for companies in the S&P 500, and it provides cash payments for investors while they wait for capital appreciation over the long term.